Oldest Human Footprints in America Found at White Sands National Park

by Shelby Scott

In recent science nerd news, peaking interests of Outsiders such as myself, researchers have located sets of incredibly ancient human footprints in Southern New Mexico. The age of the footprints predates earlier reports of human activity in North America. This makes the earliest record of human activity here almost 10,000 years before initially believed.

British and American archaeologists located the ancient footprints in NM’s White Sands National Park. The Daily Mail states they were uncovered in soft mud within a dry lakebed of the national park.

Carbon dating provides the footprints’ historical significance. However, interestingly, the archaeologists stated the prints collected over 2,000 years overall. Hence, the latest human footprints discovery puts inhabitation of the Americas as far back as 23,000 years ago.

Additionally, carbon dating of the White Sands’ footprints puts humans on this side of the Pacific during the Last Glacial Maximum. During that ancient era, ice sheets covered much of North America. Additionally, sea levels sat 400 feet lower than they do today.

Comparatively, earlier consensus reports the earliest human appearances across the continents at only 13-16,000 years ago. This means human activity across our continents on this side of the ocean would have begun following the melting of the North American ice sheets. The fact would have resulted in greater access to migration routes.

Where Did These Ancient Footprints Come From?

Overall, the White Sands footprints are significant. Few scientists have located concrete evidence of human habitation within the Americas prior to 16,000 years ago. Further, while any sign of ancient human activity is always welcome in the world of archaeology, the latest discovery gives us further insight into the habits of these ancient humans. According to the latest study, many of the footprints come from children and teenagers. More notably, only a handful of adult footprints are seen mixed within.

Additionally, Dan Odess, a science advisor for the National Park Service, stated the White Sands footprints provide, “unequivocal evidence for human presence in the Americas during the Last Glacial Maximum.”

Further, the prints suggest further mystery as a whole. Many scientists believe humans migrated to the Americas early on via the Bering Strait land bridge. As we know, the land bridge has since submerged in the waters between Alaska and Russia. However, further evidence reports that the land bridge migration route remained blocked by glaciers during the Ice Age.

In relative connection to the White Sands’ footprints, the Ice Age took place between 33,000 and 16,000 years ago. This further provides that humans occupied our Western hemisphere, and the Americas specifically, throughout the era of the famous Ice Age.

Ancient Human Insight Arises From the White Sands Discovery

In regards to scientists’ discovery of the 23,000-year-old footprints in White Sands National Park, the indentations reveal more than just a date.

The Daily Mail summed that they offer a glimpse of life during the Upper Paleolithic Era. According to the outlet, this era began around 40,000 years ago. Further, the tracks largely came from a variety of humans. Although, archaeologists also discovered evidence of mammoths, giant ground sloths, and dire wolves.

Matthew Bennet, a geographer at Bournemouth University, said, “We can think of our ancestors as quite functional…but what we see here is also activity of play…[It’s] a true insight into these early people.”